SHINGLETON, Mich. (WJMN) – In Shingleton, 53 sled dogs live their lives at Husky Haven Kennels.
Kim Darst, owner of Husky Haven Kennels, says they do kennel tours year round.
“Husky Haven Kennels is a touring outfit that we do an educational program for guests to come here, learn about working sled dogs, their life, what they love to do and then we’re also a racing kennel too that tries to get to races every once in a while when we’re not doing tours,” said Darst.
During the kennel tours visitors will learn the history of the Iditarod, how the dogs used are different now and how they are taken care of. Visitors also get to meet the dogs and learn to drive a sled.
The kennel has over 53 dogs ranging in ages 6 months to 16 years.
“We are a forever home so a lot of my tours call is husky heaven, but it is husky haven, that the dogs will stay here and live their entire life here, so it is a haven for them it is a safe haven for them,” said Darst.
Darst says taking care of the pack is a 7 days a week job.
“What we do is we usually get up around 5 o’clock in the morning, we feed and water the dogs, and we scoop all day long picking up after them, giving them fresh straw if it does rain or snow and taking them for runs pretty much every day,” said Darst.
The dogs don’t run if it’s over 50 degrees Fahrenheit because it’s too warm for them. Darst says in the summer they have kiddie pools for them to play in. If the temperature is below 50 degrees and there isn’t snow, the dogs can be hooked to a UTV for tours. If the temperature is higher than that, the kennel still provides an educational visit and meet and greet with the dogs.
Some of the other tours that Husky Haven Kennels offers are helicopter, UTV and float plane tours. Visitors can learn to fly the helicopter.
“We do helicopter tours which is totally different than sled dogs of course and we do UTV tours,” said Darst. “We link the UTV tours typically with the sled dogs that you can come here and get a kennel tour and then go out on the UTV without the dogs and then you get to see the best of both worlds.”
In the activities offered at Husky Haven Kennels, education is always a part of the experience. Darst says that although she isn’t a teacher, she did begin her career as a helicopter and fixed wing instructor at the age of 17.
“I really enjoy the education portion and teaching people what it’s like,” said Darst. “I don’t like giving people a ride without it because I think it’s like a glorified roller coaster ride then and they don’t appreciate why the dogs do what they do or why the helicopter does what it does.”
Darst found her passion for dog sleds when she was flying for work in Alaska.
“Being a helicopter pilot trade I went up to Alaska and got to do some flying up there I flew float planes up there for a bit and the state sport is dog sledding, I’m like oh cool I need to do this so I came back I had a couple Samoyeds at the time, big white fluffy things they have an attention span of a two year old and they chased every squirrel in the country and I hit a few trees and said I think I better get some Alaskan Huskies and try this another way,” said Darst.
Tours keep Husky Haven Kennels fairly busy but when they do get the time to run a race, Darst says the best part is being out in the middle of nowhere with your best friends.
“Being out in the middle of nowhere with your eight best friends, sixteen best friends however many dogs you have on that race and you don’t have to worry about cell phones, internet and you’re just with your best friends in the middle of nowhere, that’s what I like about it,” said Darst.